A local Hong Kong TV show is drawing flak from academics and professionals for what they call “distorted values”. Bride Wannabes is a 10-episode show that features five single women’s pursuit of landing the proverbial ‘Mr Right’. They entrust their fate in the hands of coaches for months as they get cosmetic tips and advice on proper social behavior.
While its objective quite clear and the theme is similar to American show The Bachelor, it’s how the women are treated that has angered groups. Taking cue from its title, you’ll get a hint.
Unlike in America where reality television shows are a dime a dozen, Hong Kong’s local channels are still a bit conservative. On TVB Pearl, one of the few free-to-air channel that offers English-language shows, most programs are imported from English-speaking countries save for some news magazines that tackle local issues. Jade, Pearl’s Chinese language channel is more “bold” as it pushes the envelope on what kind of show locals expect to watch. Hence the creation of Bride Wannabes.
The five women in the show could have had difficulty figuring out how to find one true love. Through the show’s self-proclaimed experts, there is hope of removing the ‘wannabe’ title and become a bride soon. But in case you didn’t catch the tone of sarcasm, it’s just a shame that fate of these women can only be salvaged by mentors who tell them when to speak and when to shut up, how to position one’s self when talking to men and how to control emotions.
Santino, one of the show’s advisors, reminds women that when engaging in SMS conversations, their messages must be shorter than the other person while ensuring that the other person sends the last message, not the women. It’s as though women have to go through a peculiar set of acts or lose out to competition in a city where women outnumber men.
Bride Wannabes seems to portray single women as a social malaise while incorrectly showing the viewing public how to define beauty and success. I wonder how many displeased viewers lodged a complaint to the Communications Authority.
So far, social media is one of the easiest mediums to launch a crusade; the “Say No to Bride Wannabes” campaign has attracted more than 2,400 “likes”. But just like gossip magazines that feature celebrities caught in a hotel lobby with some stranger that are often frowned upon yet continue to sell like hotcakes, many people are still eager to follow the steps of Bonnie, Florence, Mandy, Suki and Gobby (just in case you ask: A curious case of Hong Kong names). A celebrity won’t even mind becoming one of the contestants if given the chance.
The show also labels places based on character. One participant was told that if she speaks, she looks like Mong Kok, a crowded, chaotic neighborhood. If she shuts her mouth, she looks like Central, a place surrounded by sophisticated, high-end luxury brands. As if we forgot what happened to that doomed social media campaign.
Despite calls to stop airing Bride Wannabes, TVB doesn’t seem to agree as it plans to launch a male version of this reality show. And why not? The show claims 1.7 million viewers are on their TV sets every time Bride Wannabes is on. That means ka-ching, a boatload of advertisers ranging from dating companies to beauty salons willing to promote themselves in a large captive audience.